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What makes West Colfax so wicked for pedestrians? WALKscope data provides insight.

Famously dubbed “the longest, wickedest street in America,” Denver’s Colfax Avenue offers a myriad of diverse destinations ranging from bars and restaurants to elementary schools to major employment centers to steam baths. The public buses that traverse Colfax are among the most used in Denver’s entire transit system, with the highest boardings per hour and lowest subsidies per boarding. Outside of downtown, Colfax may be the busiest pedestrian corridor in the city.  And yet, as anyone who has spent time on the Avenue can attest, Colfax can be an unpleasant and sometimes even unsafe place to walk.  A new report from WalkDenver and partners highlights some of the factors that make Colfax, specifically West Colfax, so wicked for pedestrians.

Many intersections along West Colfax, such as this one at Vrain Street, have no crosswalk or traffic lights, requiring pedestrians to walk several blocks out of their way to cross the street safely. Photo source: WALKscope.org.

In the summer and fall of 2014, WalkDenver, PlaceMatters, the West Colfax Business Improvement District, and Ken Schroeppel’s Planning Methods class at the University of Colorado, Denver, College of Architecture and Planning partnered to audit the pedestrian environment along the West Colfax corridor. Trained neighborhood volunteers and planning students used the WALKscope mobile tool to collect data about sidewalks, intersections, and pedestrian counts throughout the area roughly bounded by Sheridan Boulevard to the west, Zuni Street to the east, 19th Avenue to the north, and 10th Avenue to the south.  A total of 1,532 data points were collected: 1,062 sidewalks, 425 intersections, and 45 pedestrian counts. Major findings of this assessment include the following:

  • The places where the most people walk, including Colfax Avenue and the areas adjacent to light rail stations, are the least pleasant and the least safe for pedestrians.
  • Unsafe traffic speeds are a major problem on Colfax.
  • Crossing distance is also a problem on Colfax. Pedestrians must cross 5 or more lanes to get across Colfax at pretty much every intersection.
  • Crosswalks are few and far between on Colfax, where they are needed most. In many cases, people have to walk several blocks out of their way to cross at an intersection with crosswalks.
  • The lack of buffers between sidewalks and the street degrades the pedestrian environment.  With few exceptions, the sidewalks along Colfax are all “attached,” meaning they are directly adjacent to the street with no buffer.

Click the infographic above for more details, or view the full report here. PlaceMatters and WalkDenver is continuing to work with the West Colfax BID and surrounding neighborhoods to identify potential interventions along the corridor that would improve the pedestrian environment, and we hope to demonstrate some of these design concepts with temporary installations.

This blog post was cross-posted with permission from WalkDenver. View its original posting here.